Obama: Holocaust legacy challenges US to stop Iran

In keynote address at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, US president focuses on commitment to preventing genocides around globe.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPOST CORRESPONDENT
April 24, 2012 01:42
2 minute read.
Obama and Elie Weisel

Obama and Elie Weisel 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed)

 
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WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama declared Monday that the legacy of the Holocaust challenges America to do everything it can to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.

“‘Never again’ is a challenge to defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security – and that includes the State of Israel,” said Obama, speaking at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in honor of the annual commemoration of the Shoah. “I will always be there for Israel.”

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He continued, “When faced with a regime that threatens global security and denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy Israel, the United States will do everything in our power to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Obama also said that, “‘Never again’ is a challenge to reject hatred in all of its forms – including anti-Semitism, which has no place in a civilized world.”

Before taking the podium Monday, Obama toured the museum with Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.

Wiesel, who introduced the president, also connected the Holocaust to Iran and spoke forcefully of the need for the world to take action.

“How is it that the number one Holocaust denier Ahmadinejad is still the president? He who threatens to use nuclear weapons – to use nuclear weapons – to destroy the Jewish state.

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Have we not learned?” Wiesel asked the audience of human rights activists, Jewish community leaders and Holocaust survivors.

“We must, must know that when evil has power, it is almost too late.”

Wiesel pointed to the importance of “preventative measures,” and stressed, “We must use those measures to prevent another catastrophe.”

During his speech Monday, Obama did roll out some new steps to limit Iran and Syria’s ability to act against their own people.

Chief among them is a new executive order authorizing new sanctions against the Syrian and Iranian governments and those that help them, and using technology to monitor and target citizens for violence.

“These technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them,” he said. “And it’s one more step that we can take toward the day that we know will come – the end of the Assad regime that has brutalized the Syrian people – and allow the Syrian people to chart their own destiny.”

Obama also announced the strengthening of the new Atrocities Prevention Board, bringing together senior officials from across our government to focus on the issues, which convened at the White House for the first time Monday. In addition, the intelligence community will prepare its firstever national intelligence estimate on the risk of mass atrocities and genocide, among other measures.

Despite these moves and the recent declaration that preventing mass atrocities is a core national security interest, Obama cautioned, “that does not mean that we intervene militarily every time there’s an injustice in the world. We cannot and should not.”

During his speech, Obama also reported that he would be posthumously awarding the Presidential Medal of Honor, the country’s highest civilian honor, to Jan Karski.

Karski, Obama noted, was a Catholic Pole who witnessed efforts to exterminate the Jews and “told the truth, all the way to president Roosevelt himself.”

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